Issue date: 10th August 2011
The coalition Government’s aim to devolve powers and responsibilities to the local level has clear implications for IWA engagement with tiers of government.
At present our focus remains trained on central government. In June IWA submitted its response document to Defra’s consultation on the Government’s proposals for transferring British Waterways’ responsibility for the management and operation of it’s inland waterways network in England and Wales to a New Waterways Charity. Defra’s response is expected in the autumn. We will keep up the pressure on key issues, and principally that the financial package must be sufficient for the charity. We will also need to consider the secondary legislation that will bring the transfer into effect and continue lobbying on Environment Agency waterways to hold the Government to its commitment that they should transfer in 2015.
The Government’s localism agenda means that the inland waterways sector must engage more with local authorities. This tier of government is going to become increasingly important to us whether local authorities are members of Local Waterway Partnerships, Local Enterprise Partnerships, or both.
The Government’s agenda in devolving powers and responsibilities was reflected in the Local Government Association conference entitled ‘Localism Works’ held in June. We will have to develop new relationships with key players from local government and IWA’s External and Government Affairs Advisor, the former Waterways Minister Jonathan Shaw, attended the conference to get a feel for engagement possibilities. Local government is having to deal with cuts in resources and is focussing on how to deliver big strategic issues such as waste, transport, adult social care and economic development.
IWA will need to work hard to get its voice heard – especially at a branch and region level. But that is not impossible. Certain of the Regional Development Agencies became converted over the years on the benefits that waterways can convey. We will need to get this message to local government at a local level; maintain contacts with the Local Government Association at a national level; and consider taking a more formal presence at next year’s LGA conference.